At the beginning of August 2020, like every year, Alabi Rukayat Oyindamola, 25, is going to his hometown of Kwara, Nigeria, to celebrate Eid with his family. One morning, as she strolls through the streets of the city, this management student at the University of Lagos stops short, speechless. What she has in front of her, she has never seen: a mother and her two daughters, dark skinned and endowed with magnificent blue eyes, of unparalleled color and luminosity. “I thought I was hallucinating.”
“Seeing them all three, so beautiful, with their eyes so blue, I couldn’t believe it,” explains the young woman, who hastens to take a picture of them and post the images on Facebook telling their story. The mother, Risikat, is 28 years old. The girls, Kaosarat and Hassanat, are 5 and 2 years old. All three suffer from an extremely rare genetic condition that affects only one in 40,000 black people, a form of ocular albinism (a lack of pigment in the iris) called Waardenburg syndrome.
First snapshot posted on the web catches the attention of a Nigerian photographer
Because of this impressive, “diabolical” feature, it is whispered, mother and daughters are sidelined by the community and have been rejected by their husbands and fathers. “I was born with those eyes, and my daughters inherited them. We are the only ones in the family. They gave me concern, but I am very proud of them,” says Risikat. Fate will prove him right. The photos and their history, relayed by Alabi on social networks, attract the attention of Nigerian photographer Mofe Bamuyiwa.
Quickly, she contacted the abandoned mother, with an idea in mind: to carry out a photo shoot featuring their beauty to transform misfortune into praise. In mid-August, the photographer and her team therefore set up a pop-up studio in the village square. At first hesitant, Risikat, styled and made up by pros for the first time in her life, is quickly convinced. In the midst of a crowd of neighbors, adorned in sumptuous dresses, the girls play and the mother beams with pride. Via the photographer’s Instagram account, the images tour the country.
“Everyone started to look at us differently”
Until falling under the eyes of the wife of the governor of the region, who seizes the situation and organizes a fundraiser to improve the financial situation of our three apprentice models. “Everyone started to look at us differently. Media got interested in us, the community softened and my husband got closer. Everything about our situation changed from the release of Mofe’s photos!” , Risikat confides, his eyes even brighter than usual.
His dreams for the future? Keep her daughters safe and happy, and send them to school so that they can “be successful in life”. “As for me, sweetness will suffice,” concludes the mother with a smile.
Risikat Azeez © FACEBOOK / MOFEBAMUYIWA